We ate many things last weekend while visiting pals in NYC (including twice at Papacito's in Greenpoint, if tacos at 3 am counts as a meal) but the one nosh that is sticking with me was a simple plate of cannelinis, kale, and fried eggs from Eat Cafe (also in Greenpoint). 10 bucks for the cleanest, greenest breakfast (I warned you I was obsessed!) I've had in a long, long while.
Enthusiasm for local food has been growing steadily in Charlotte (as behind as we are about some things, people are very cool about this!). I mean, even the difference between last year's growing season and this is marked, as local growers go a little further out on a limb, growing more exotic produce. So, since I have some customers that are super-interested in eating as locally as possible, I'm going to try constructing a meal, weekly, of ingredients sourced within a 50 mile radius of CLT. And this first go... duh duh duh... Huge Pile of Mac N Cheese Topped with Seared Kale and Roasted Tomatoes, Accented by Apple Butter Chipotle Hot Sauce. There has GOT to be a more eloquent name for this thing. Caveat: this macaroni is ostensibly local, but since the only info on the package was about Harris Teeter's distribution address, one can't be sure. Next time, it'll have to be fresh.
I'm not going to go into serious detail about every element of this ungodly pile of totally-un-vegan deliciousness, but will do some highlights, instead. Two of the more interesting tastes involved were the Seared Kale and 'Maters, and the Apple Butter/Hot Sauce. So let's do that. Since the poached eggs were the tie-together for this dish, it was important to me to get 'hold of the best I could (from New Terra Farm, who has a stand at the Atherton Farmer's Market every Tues and Sat), and then barely poach them - allowing them to be sauce or condiment more than anything else. Ya!
Seared Kale with Oven Roasted Tomatoes
1 large tomato
1 1/2 pound kale
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pine nuts, slightly toasted
Fried shallots, to finish
1/2 cube mild flavored veggie boullion cube (or enough for 1 cup of broth)
So, yes, you can slow roast tomatoes for 9 hours in a 200 degree oven, or you can actually eat dinner at some point tonite and just peel them, quarter them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and put them in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Turn once, to get both cut edges caramelizing.
Working with one bowl of cleaning water, one dry for holding pieces, clean the kale by soaking, rinsing, and tearing handfuls two times each. Shake the water off of the larger pieces before tearing, and put torn pieces in a dry bowl lined with paper towels. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok over medium-low heat, and add minced garlic - saute slowly, letting the garlic cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Up the temp to high, and add your kale in 2 batches - cook the first down a bit to make room for the 2nd, continuously stirring. Add the bouillion cube, stir again, reduce heat to medium, and cover, letting the greens steam. Stir every 3-5 minutes after that, until the kale has softened, but not lost its shape completely. Should take about 10 minutes to cook until its al dente. While that's happening, roughly chop your roasted tomatoes, keeping as much liquid as possible. Toss pine nuts and tomatoes into the wok, stir, and set aside until ready to serve.
Apple Butter Chipotle Sauce
1/2 cup apple butter
2 tbs chipotle hot sauce, or 1 large chipotle chili in adobo, minced fine
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Puree everything in a blender, then scrape contents into a small saucepan. Add a tablespoon or two of water, mix, then simmer for about 5 minutes, until flavors have blended. You want to keep a thick soup-like consistency, so add water as needed to achieve this.
As far as mac 'n cheese goes, everyone has their favorite recipe. With the fresh kale and strong apple butter flavors, a sharper cheese works best - think 5 year cheddar, fontina, or even a blue. I used hoop cheddar from a nearby dairy farm and lots of mustard, and STILL could have used more kick.